Apple introduced a new version of its iMac desktop and a powerful upgrade of its iPad Pro tablet at an online event Tuesday. Both new products are based on Apple’s new M1 chip.
“The whole thing about this event is broadening the use of the M1 chip across all Apple’s computers now — laptops, desktops and iPads,” Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a technology advisory firm in Campbell, Calif. told bluehillco.
The new iMac is the first computer built by Apple for the M1 chip from the ground up, explained Ross Rubin the principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City.
The new iMac is also remarkably thin. “Just as the iPhone is a sheet of glass you hold in your hand, the iMac is a sheet of glass on a stand on your desk.”
“The M1 allowed them to shrink everything,” Bajarin added. “It was an impressive engineering feat that they brought to the iMac.”
Without the M1 chip, the new iMac’s form factor couldn’t have been produced, maintained Mark N. Vena, a senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, a technology analyst and advisory firm based in Austin, Texas.
“Apple silicon allows them to get a thin form factor because it has lower thermal demands and allows them to consolidate multiple chip sets into a single chip set,” he told bluehillco.
The new iMac, which has a 24-inch display, also comes in an array of colors. The US$1,299 model, with 256GB of solid state storage, 8 GB of RAM, two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, is offered in blue, green, pink and silver. The $1,499 model, which also has two USB 3 ports, comes in three additional colors, yellow, orange and purple.
“The colors are a flashback to the original iMac,” observed Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst with Tirias Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm inSan Jose, Calif.
However, he sees some potential problems with being so colorful. “They want to differentiate the product more, but it’s going to be a problem for them to manage inventory because you’ve got to manage seven colors of computers, keyboards, Magic Trackpads and mice,” he told bluehillco.
The new iMac is available in a variety of colors and is more compact than its predecessors.
Thomas Husson, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, said the new iMac stands out in the PC market for a number of reasons.
“The M1 chip may look a bit techy, but it will drastically improve the end-user experience by boosting speed and performance,” he told bluehillco.
“The 4.5K retina display and the new design will also provide a best-in-class entertainment experience, while the addition of Touch ID and latest speakers and mics will put it on par with other devices from the Apple ecosystem,” he added.
Ordering for the new iMac starts on April 30 with shipments starting in the second half of May.
Upgrading the iPad Pro line to the M1 chip surprised some Apple followers. “A lot of people thought the M1 chip wouldn’t come to the iPad until later in the year,” Bajarin observed.
“The fact that it’s in the iPad now is an important thing because it impacts sales for the rest of the year,” he added.
Incorporating the M1 chip into the iPad Pro line brings Apple’s computers and tablets closer together. “It shows how the lines continue to blur between the Mac and the iPad, to the point that you’re using the same processor in both devices,” observed Rubin.
Still, there’s a line between the two, which can be frustrating to some users. “The design and technology are phenomenal, but it’s still running iPadOS, and you have to add accessories to make it more like a laptop,” Krewell said.
“Many people in the professional space just want a laptop,” he continued. “They want to know why Apple can’t deliver those phenomenal specs in a laptop with a touch screen?”
Bringing the M1 chip to the iPad reveals the direction Apple wants to take the line, maintained Vena.
“Putting the M1 in the iPad Pro shows they’re trying to position it for creative professionals,” he said. “It’s not for the person doing some email and light graphical stuff.”
In addition to offering a new 1TB model of the iPad Pro, Apple has also added 5G to the line.
“Adding 5G to the iPad Pro is a good idea because once we get out of our houses, 5G will be important for people working remotely with iPad Pros,” Krewell observed.
“I’d like to see 5G added to the MacBook line because people working remotely with MacBooks would love 5G connectivity as well,” he added.
The iPad Pro is available with 5G. Models in the U.S. support millimeter wave to provide speeds up to 4Gbps.
Husson, though, maintained 5G is just a “nice to have” at this stage of the technology’s development.
However, he acknowledged that 5G is important to the iPad Pro’s target audience. “Professionals likely to pay a premium for such a device want to have the best-of-breed experiences and are more likely than average to use a tablet in a mobile context, on-the-go,” he explained.
“When in an office with fiber and advanced WiFi, the benefits will be limited but when traveling or in a static environment, the addition of 5G will be appreciated,” he added.
Pricing for the new iPad Pros, which come in silver and space gray, start at $799 for the 11-inch model with 128 GB of storage and $1,099 for the 12.9-inch model with 128GB.
As with the iMac, Apple will start taking orders for the units on April 30 and start shipping during the last two weeks of May.
Apple also announced AirTag at its event. The tags, which will sell for $29 each, can be attached to anything and tracked from an iPhone using the Find My app.
Precision Finding gives users the exact distance and direction to their AirTag, using a combination of sound, haptics, and visual feedback.
“The Find My app is one of the most used apps on all of Apple’s products,” Bajarin said. “Adding AirTags to the Find My feature is a natural evolution of Apple’s ecosystem.”
“It’s going to be Apple’s next billion-dollar business,” he added. “If they sold just 39 million AirTags this year, that would be $1.13 billion in new revenue. Selling 39 million AirTags will be a piece of cake for them.”
Apple TV Gets A12 Chip
An Apple TV upgrade was also revealed at the event. It received a new chip, the A12, and a revamp of its remote. “The new remote is really a big deal because it makes navigating through Apple TV so much easier, compared to the last remote,” Bajarin noted.
The new Apple TV 4K with the A12 Bionic chip and Siri Remote
“At the event, they said it will be sold with the new Apple TV, but it will also be sold separately and is backward compatible,” he continued.
“Making the new remote compatible to older hardware isn’t something Apple had to do, but it certainly makes owners of the current hardware much happier,” added Linn Huang, a senior research analyst with IDC.
“TVs are one of those areas ripe for innovation and a disruptive experience,” he told bluehillco. “Putting something like an A12 into an Apple TV gives Apple a head start in moving toward that disruptive experience.”